It's been six years since I started travelling the world. What originally was planned as a six month gab year in Australia, turned into 30+ countries. Form packing a massive backpack at 19 to travelling with only hand luggage now, I've gained a loooot of inside into what you actually need and what you shouldn't bring. There is plenty of blogs that tell you what you need buy or bring on your trip, I just wish I didn't listen to them. So let me share with you what I actually bring with me as a full time traveller.
A little disclaimer: This is what I pack and need as someone mostly staying in hostels. What is listed below is what I permanently take with me. Keep in mind that the places you travel to often allow you to purchase and resell things you might need when stopping in a place longer to work there, or when you buy a van or rent a place for example.
Travelling with only hand luggage might sound extrem at first, but it saves you so much time at airports, luggage costs when flying and is actually all you need. I've tried to link you the exact products I actually use.
Backpack and Packing
- Backpack Osprey Fairview 55 (40l main backpack + 15l detachable day pack; hand luggage approved) - I use the main pack for all my stuff and the daypack for all my photography gear or when going on hikes ect.
- BumBag (for Passport, Wallet and little bits)
- Tote bag (for the beach or groceries etc)
- Packing Cubes (helps to keep organised; one larger one for clothes, smaller ones for underwear, cosmetics, ect.)
- Camera Lens Pouches to keep my gear safe in the day pack
- Zip-Lock Plastic Bag for liquids while flying
- Laundry bag (any cotton like bag or cheap tote bag will do, just no plastic as things will start to smell )
I used to use the Mountaintop 40l Backpack which was an awesome cheap alternative to the Osprey. The only reason I changed was that I needed a seperate pack for my camera gear.
Tip: No matter what backpack you go for, make sure it has an all around zipper that lets you access everything. Nothing more annoying than having to unpack everything just because you can't reach what's at the bottom of your pack. Less is more here - don't overpack. If you can't carry it, you don't need it.
Documents & Organisations
- Drivers License + International Drivers Permit
- Vaccine Certificate
- Spare Passport Photos (not a must but came in handy a few times and doesn't take any room)
- Flight Tickets (on my phone/ airline app)
- Visa if needed (again, on my phone)
- Insurance Documents ( Provider Tips below)
- Notebook (I take my Paperblanks Business Planer) + Pen
Tip: Consider keeping photos of your passport and other documents on your phone and/or laptop. This will make it a lot easier if something gets lost and you need to get replacements.
Bits & Pieces
When I left to travel for the first time in 2017, my family talked me into taking a full first aid kit and medicine for every illness under the sun with me. Today I really only take the basics. In most circumstances there is access to pharmacies and doctors in your destination. Sure, if you will be fully off the grid, you might want to bring some other things too.
- Medical Kit (Ibuprofen, Nosespray, Sore Throat Strepsils ,Betadine Anti Septic Drops, Eyedrops)
- Water bottle (800ml-1l and insulated)
- Travel Towel (not as nice as a proper towel, but way smaller and dries quicker)
- Glasses (if you are blind like me), sunglasses
- Number Lock (for hostel lockers ect. ; no risk of loosing the key)
- Blow up neck pillow ( lifesaver on long plane and bus journeys - mine is from decathlon, but I linked you a similar one)
- Deck of cards & Dice (welcome to hostel life!)
- Carabiners (to attach things to your backpack)
- Scuba Mask ( love diving and having your own mask is much more comfy then rental ones, I little luxury since I can't take all my scuba gear)
Electronics & Camera Gear
For a photographer I don't have much gear - for a traveller I do. If you don't work online or never use a laptop - don't bring one. You get it, customisation is key to this list.
- Phone + Life Proof 360 Case (I use the iPhone 13 Pro since it's great for photos and videos, but any will do)
- Lightweight Laptop (all my edits and work are done on the MacBook Pro 13")
- Noise Cancelling Headphones (absolutely loved the JBL LIVE 650BTNC but downsized to Bose QuietComfort)
- Worldwide Travel Adapter (get an adapter cube to avoid constantly buying different ones for each country)
- Hair straightener
If you are going to fly with hand-luggage, make sure all liquids are 100ml or less and in a zip-lock plastic bag. Once I'm not flying and in a country for a while I buy normal sized cosmetics.
- Toothbrush + Toothpaste + Case
- Hairbrush ( call me crazy but I just cut of the handle of mine to save room - but I did link you one that doesn't require a saw)
- Mini shampoo and conditioner (haven't found a solid shampoo I liked, but that's also a great option)
- Soap bar + soap box
- Menstrual Cup (big fan - a lot less to carry/ repurchase)
- Mini Sunscreen
- Moisturiser and Lipbalm
- Contact Lenses (monthly for around 6 months) + Lens Solution
- Make up remover (still had some makeup wipes, but usually have reusable ones)
- Cotton buds
- Small amount of Coconut Oil ( as hair oil, moisturiser, lip balm, antibacterial, you could even cook with it)
- Nail Clippers, Nail File, Tweezers, Hair Ties and Hair Scissors ( Yes I cut my own hair most of the time; Scissors need to be less the 4" from the pivot point to be allowed on planes)
- Basic Make-Up (BB-Creme, Concealer, Mascara, Eyebrow Brush+Powder, Sleek Bronzer/Highlighter with small Mirror - Trust me most of the time you won't wear makeup anyway)
Customise what clothes you take to the climate in the countries you visit. Probably no need to pack shorts if you are going on a winter trip to Iceland or to take a rain jacket to Morocco. Since I will be going to hot and cold countries next, I tried to have a bit of everything. Aim to pack for 7-10 days and wash after. Recently I started sticking to clothes in certain colours, so that I can mix and match everything.
- Socks (5 x Thin Sneaker Socks, 1-2 pairs of thick warm socks)
- 10x undies, 1 Sports Bra
- 1 Bikini, 1 Swimsuit
- 5 T-shirts , 1 Top, 2 Jumpers
- 1 thin long sleeve , 1 active wear long sleeve
- 2 Sports Leggings, 1 short Leggings
- 1-2 Shorts
- 1 Jeans
- 1 Dress
- 1 Thick Fleece Jumper (not in the picture)
- Rainjacket (oversized so it fits over the fleece)
- 1 Beanie, thin gloves, 1 Cap, 1 thin loop scarf
- 1 pair of Vans
- 1 pair of Birkenstocks (or FlipFlops or Sandals)
What not to pack
There is so many blogs and retailers out there telling you to buy lots of travel gear before heading off. From my experience, all you really need are the things that you use all the time at home too. Sure, swap a big towel for a smaller travel towel, but don't start buying heaps of travel gadgets. If you are travelling somewhere with civilisation, chances are you can pick up bits and pieces as you go.
Here are the things I left with at the start, that I abandoned along the way.
- Travel Guide Books (often seen as the perfect gift for a traveller, these only weigh you down - you can find everything online these days)
- Pyjamas ( In my opinion, a long t-shirt and underwear is all you need )
- Bug Spray from your home country (buy it at your destination, UK bug spray for example will likely not work for Australian Mosquitoes)
- Jewellery and lots of Make up (you simply won't use it, or loose it along the way)
- Money belt ( Thieves are aware of them these days - just be aware of your surroundings and don't keep all valuables in one place)
- Liner sleeping bag (after not using mine once in a year, I threw it out. Most hostels are cleaner then expected)
- Mosquito net (if you are travelling somewhere with a huge mosquito problem, there will already be nets in your accommodation)
- Really anything that you aren't absolutely sure you need. Head torches, Life Straws, Hammocks, Mattresses etc. are great when you want to hike off grid and sleep in nature, but if that's not what you intend to do, leave it at home.
Apps, Insurance and Banking
Apps I use all the time:
- Google Maps
- Google Translate
- Booking.com (they give you discounts on accommodations when booking frequently)
- Uber (or Grab in many asian countries)
- Flixbus (super cheap long distance busses all over Europe)
- Airline apps (Emirates, Ryanair ect.)
- Local Bus or Train apps
Make sure to have multiple debit / credit cards so you can access funds if one card gets blocked or stolen. I've tried out a few different banks, and found these to be the best for travelling.
- Revolut (International banking; comes with an app; stores different currencies; free International transfers, withdrawals and payments; offers crypto; offers travel insurance; rewards for purchases on flixbus, amazon ect.; has a booking platform and tons of other features
- N26 ( International banking; own easy to use app; different accounts for savings; free international withdraws ect.; provides insurance for travel, winter sports, luggage, theft, vehicle rentals and more; discounts with partners such as booking, Nord VPN ect.
- Wise (I only use them for transferring funds after working in a foreign country, but they also do a Bankcard now, might be worth checking out)
I also use N26 for travel insurance. They cover up to 3 month in a country. If I'm longer in one place, my go to is HanseMerkur or ADAC (German providers). Regardless of what insurance you use, check exactly what is covered and what the terms are.
My camera gear is insure with Hempster. It was one of the few I found to cover you internationally for damages as well as theft.